Sheriff’s Office offers crisis training |

Sheriff’s Office offers crisis training

by Amy Alonzo
Graduates of the Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) program pose for a photo Friday at the Douglas County Jucidicial and Law Enforcement Center. The Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) program is a model community initiative designed to improve the outcomes of police interactions with people living with mental illnesses. CIT programs are built on local partnerships between law enforcement agencies, mental health providers and advocates. They involve individuals living with mental illnesses and families at all levels of decision-making and planning. CIT programs typically provide 40 hours of training for law enforcement on how to better respond to people experiencing a mental health crisis. Equally important, CIT programs provide a forum for partner organizations to coordinate diversion from jails to mental health services.
Brad Coman |

More than two dozen area safety and protection officials gained understanding of how to better handle crisis situations by completing Douglas County Sheriff Office’s first crisis intervention training.

The week-long class, which wrapped up Friday, focused on mental and cognitive health issues such as suicide, prosecution of those who are mentally ill and intellectually disabled, and understanding dementia.

“If you understand it, you can deal with it better,” said Sgt. Amy Savage. “Mental health is only a growing problem and we have to have a better solution.”

Previously Douglas officials have attended training in other counties, Savage said. The intent is to offer crisis training annually in the spring, she said. It is open to employees from other cities and counties — this year, employees from localities including Lyon and Churchill counties participated.

On Friday, topics included incident management, home visits and understanding dementia.

“Dementia is an umbrella term for deficits in cognition,” said Susan Thompson, associate director of the Nevada Caregiver Support Center.

About 10 percent of people aged 65-74 show signs of dementia; for those 85 and older, the number is around 40 percent, she said.

In addition to memory problems, the illness can cause people to commit crimes unintentionally, such as shoplifting, Thompson said. People may become confused and think they have already paid.

In addition, people with dementia may act out of character and commit public sexual behavior or may drive recklessly due to reduced motor skills, she said.

Officials participating in the training shared stories of situations in which they’ve dealt with someone with cognitive impairments. Several told stories of searching for elderly people who had wandered away from their residence.

Most wanderers are found within a mile of their residence and within 100 feet of the road, Thompson said.

After teaching her portion of the training Thompson said the purpose of her talk was to “go over the different issues that are pertinent for older adults.”

Age-related cognitive disorders “will definitely impact interactions,” she said. “They (those with cognitive disorders) can appear confused or hostile. It doesn’t make it easier, but knowing the different impairments, people can be open to the possibilities.”

All employees who completed the week’s training are eligible to participate in the county’s Mobile Outreach Safety Team. The goal of the team is to connect those with mental health issues with services within the county before they reach a crisis level that could lead to violence or the committing of a crime.

For more information on the safety team, contact Douglas County Sheriff’s dispatch at 782-5126.